Despite loss of Haloti Ngata, Ravens and Terrell Suggs have unfinished business

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has 101.5 sacks in his career, a number that boosts his Hall of Fame credentials.

There have been few times during his 12-year NFL career when Terrell Suggs has been at a loss for words, but the thought of him wearing a yellow jacket and standing next to a bronzed bust of himself only forces a smile.

"Wow," said Suggs, glancing up at the sky and thinking about the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I don't want to sit back and reflect on my career yet because it is not time. But if that happened ... Wow."


Suggs doesn't have to talk because the resume speaks for itself. He has been on some of the league's best defenses, been to six Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl and been named both the NFL's defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.

"I don't know if there has ever been a player who has won defensive player of the year two times and not gotten in," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end.


But Suggs, 32, isn't looking that far ahead. He says he has a few more years left to play — and maybe a top defensive honor to win — and there is the unfinished business of the 2014 season.

Vying for at least a wild-card spot with four games remaining, but the Ravens (7-5) have the 31st- ranked pass defense in the league. And things got more difficult on Thursday, when the NFL suspended star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for four games for violating its substance abuse policy.

The Ravens will look for others to step up their games, but they know they will need a Herculean effort from Suggs because of the leadership void left by Ngata.

Can the player know as "The Siz" take his game to a higher level and allow his teammates to hitch a ride into the postseason?

"Absolutely," said former Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. "He is still playing at a high level, very crafty with his moves and managing the game. He has always played the run very well, even though not as good this year. It really depends on the matchups, and he is probably going to win most of them."

The Ravens have been preparing Suggs, defensive lineman Chris Canty and inside linebacker Daryl Smith for this time of the season. A year ago, the veterans slowed down and showed signs of age.

Coach John Harbaugh has cut down Suggs' snaps during games. He has also forced him to slow down in practices much like they did with inside linebacker Ray Lewis near the end of his career.

It's no secret that Suggs isn't the spry, unrelenting player he was six years ago, but he is fourth on the team in tackles with 41 and has seven sacks — proving he can still get after the quarterback.


"Great pass rushers will always be able to rush the passer because he has that knack," Newsome said. "He loves practice, being in the building, the game itself and the passion has not left him. ... Plus, Siz will continue to have success because of the other guys playing on the defensive front with him."

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil has 12.5 sacks this season and will draw just as many slides in protection as Suggs. Tackle Brandon Williams has been able to collapse the pocket at times and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee has been able to get pressure occasionally from inside or out.

To get better matchups for Suggs, the Ravens have rushed him up the middle in the last two games to blow by centers and guards.

"He will school a lot of young tackles," Ogden said. "When I was young, Bruce Smith was a veteran but he couldn't beat me with that same old okie-doke. Once you get a little older, everyone starts to slow down, that's just natural."

Suggs has 101.5 career sacks, which is 28th all-time. He long ago broke the Ravens' career mark of 70 set by former outside linebacker Peter Boulware (1997-2005).

Boulware, though, was a speed rusher. Suggs isn't as fast or mobile as Boulware, but plays with more power. Suggs is a thick 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds.


"I was the guy who got wide, timed up the snap and tried to beat the guy around the corner by getting my shoulder underneath," Boulware said. "Terrell has been a top pass rusher for so long because he can do that, or just overpower you with a bull rush."

But he isn't just a pass rusher. Those around the league say Suggs is just as effective against the run. Seven times throughout his career Suggs has had more than 70 tackles in a season.

"The thing that sets him apart is the way he plays versus the run," Newsome said. "There have been and still are some great edge players in the game, but I don't know many that can play against the tackle, destroy the tight end or defeat a guard or fullback coming to kick them out. He is truly a three-down player."

It wasn't that way when Suggs left Arizona State. As a rookie, Suggs with blessed with all the physical gifts, but his No. 1 priority was getting to the quarterback.

But also in his first year, the Ravens were making the transition from playing a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. Suggs struggled because he played end in college and was being moved to outside linebacker. The Ravens decided to use him strictly as a pass rusher that season.

So each day, Suggs butted heads with Ogden.


"Willie Roaf kicked my butt a couple of times," Suggs said. "Larry Allen was a guard, but one time in San Francisco he took me with one hand and threw me out of the play. Walter Jones was pretty tough, too."

"J.O., though, will probably be the best to ever play the game. I can honestly say I beat J.O. in a pass rush maybe one time and that was when he had that bad toe coming down the stretch. You learn more in failure than you do in success."

It was all part of the maturation process for Suggs, who admits that he and Ngata, his close friend, are good-natured, overgrown kids.

To get into the Hall of Fame would be a childhood dream. Suggs grew up admiring Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas and Bruce Smith. As a St. Paul, Minn., native his favorite team was the Minnesota Vikings and he loved watching outside linebacker Chris Doleman and defensive tackle John Randle play.

Suggs' quarterback sack list goes from the Steelers' Tommy Maddox to the Chargers' Philip Rivers. He has sacked Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger more than any other quarterback, but his favorite target might be New England's Tom Brady. They don't talk to each other even though they are on the same team at the Pro Bowl.

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"I talk to their other guys, like Logan Mankins," said Suggs of the former Patriots' guard. "He laughs with me because he likes when I give Brady crap because nobody else messes with the golden boy."


The 100th sack, which came against the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees on Nov. 24, was a benchmark for Hall of Fame discussion. He'll have to wait at least five years after he retires to get nominated and there are other great pass rushers ahead of him like Charles Haley and Kevin Greene, but Suggs has been noticed.

"Suggs has had a fine career and will obviously be discussed when the time is right," said Jarret Bell, a Hall of Fame voter from USA Today. "Will Suggs garner serious discussion? That's probably a good bet. When he plays against the Steelers, he surely reminds me of Lawrence Taylor. So much intensity. In general, it's not easy to compare him to others — which will be good for his case one day. I see some Haley and Derrick Thomas in Suggs because of his explosion off the edge, and I see some Rickey Jackson and Ted Hendricks, too, because of his versatility"

Suggs, though, is focused on Miami. He'll play extra hard because the Ravens will be without Ngata, who he admires.

"Off the field Haloti is an amazing guy. People don't know that about him," Suggs said. "In 2006, we got Haloti in here and we saw that we had an opportunity to do some things, that's when we said 'All right, it's time to win a championship.' "

A strong performance down the stretch would help cement Suggs' legacy, especially since the Ravens have been through a lot of turmoil this season.

"If Suggs continues to build his resume as an elite pass rusher I'd certainly consider him for induction," said NFL reporter John McClain, a Hall of Fame voter.